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Archive for July, 2020

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This is author and screenwriter William Goldman’s classic spoof fairy tale, which tells the story of Buttercup (the most beautiful girl in the world) and Westley (former farm boy turned swashbuckling hero) and their eternal love. Except that it is SO much more than that. There are pirates, kidnappings, death, swords, giants, princes, heroic escapes, magic and more besides. Apart from Buttercup and Westley, the main characters are Inigo Montoya and Fezzik the Giant, not to mention the numerous others, all of whom were highly entertaining in their own right.

It is framed in an unusual way – in the edition which I read, there is first of all a proper introduction by Goldman (I often skip introductions, but this is worth reading), and then a part where Goldman himself reminisces about being a young boy who had the story read to him by his father. The conceit is that Goldman claims that The Princess Bride was written by S. Morgenstern – who is in actuality entirely fictional – and he (Goldman) has merely edited it to get rid of the boring bits, and only tell the entertaining parts. Throughout the story itself, Goldman often interrupts the narrative to explain that he has cut part of the story and gives a brief synopsis of what happened in the part that he has cut. It sounds complicated, but all makes sense when you are reading it.

I actually didn’t realise quite how accomplished Goldman was – he wrote screenplays for such incredible and successful films as All The President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Misery. He also wrote several novels including Marathon Man, which was turned into an excellent film. His talent is undeniable, and his originality shines through in The Princess Bride. I am not normally a lover of fantasy fiction, which is why it took me so long to get around to reading this, but I would recommend this whether it is a genre you enjoy or not.

Truly deserving of it’s classic status.

 

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The Body in the Lake is the seventh episode/novella/installment – whichever you want to call it – in the Cherringham Cosy Crime Series. Laurent Bourdain, the mayor of a French village has been invited to Cherringham to pave the way for the twinning of the two small villages. A celebration party at Repton Hall (a large manor house owned by Lady Repton, who has appeared in a previous Cherringham mystery) turns to debauchery and ends with Monsieur Bourdain’s body being found floating in the lake at the manor.

Naturally there are plenty of suspects and an arrest is soon made, but our amateur detectives Sarah and Jack think that the wrong person is in custody and set out to solve the crime for themselves.

As with all the Cherringham series, Neil Dudgeon excellently narrates this episode and the story is enjoyable, although not the best so far but they can’t all be the best. Another fun slice of life in the sleepy Cotswold village with all sorts of secrets lurking below the surface…

 

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This audiobook was narrated by Colleen Prendergast, who I have previously enjoyed listening to as a narrator. She did a great job here too, but unfortunately I did not particularly enjoy listening to this book.

The story is narrated by Nina Penhaligon, an actress on the brink of making it big in television. After making a massive blunder and embarrassing her agent, she decides to get away from it all and goes to stay with her brother in Devon. There she meets up with an old friend named Theo, who has problems of his own. Theo and his wife Kate’s marriage is floundering after they struggle to get over a traffic loss. Nina gets involved with helping Theo set up his holiday let business and falls for the quieter pace of life in Devon, as opposed to the hustle and bustle of London.

In between trying to help Theo and Kate mend their marriage, Nina also has to find out the truth about her own family history, help her brother see that too much work is not good for him, get involved with trying to save a local landmark, and of course, there’s a big dollop of romance in there too.

I’ve long ago come to the conclusion that chicklit is not a genre which really works for me, but when listening to audiobooks, I can sometimes enjoy it. This one started out fairly well, but it went on for so SO long. I felt that a few of the storylines could have been cut out completely and the book would have been better for it (I’m not going to be too specific here, as I don’t want to give away spoilers). It seemed to be about twice as long as it needed to be. The other thing was that the way the holiday let business got set up was just unrealistic. Nina basically happens upon Theo’s rundown, unkempt and completely unfurnished holiday cottages, and transforms them in ONE AFTERNOON!!

I appreciate that we are meant to be rooting for Nina, but I found her quite annoying by the end of it. They should have just called her a fairy godmother, given her a magic wand and have done with it. She managed to solve the problems of practically everyone in the village, and it felt like she was going around sprinkling her fairy dust everywhere. The other problem was that some of the plot points were so obviously signposted that it seemed incredible that Nina didn’t spot what was coming herself.

On the positive side (yes, there is one!) I thought the Devon setting was lovely and it did  make me think that I too would love to live in a place like that.

I should mention again that this is not really a genre I read a lot, because I generally find it very predictable, which was one of my niggles with this book. I’ve read several other reviews of this book, most of which rate it really highly, so if you do enjoy chicklit, then don’t be put off giving it a go. Unfortunately it just wasn’t really for me.

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Described as Gosford Park meets Groundhog Day, by way of Agatha Christie, this is a twisty, confusing book with a brilliant premise.

The formerly grand Blackheath House is hosting a party, and the hosts’ daughter Evelyn is going to die at 11.00pm. It’s murder, but it won’t look like murder and until the culprit is brought to justice by Aiden, a young man who is visiting the house, the day is going to repeat itself over and over. But as if that wasn’t enough of a mystery, every day Aiden will wake up in the body of a different party guest, seeing the party and the crime through a new set of eyes. He will have to use the clues that he picks up in each persona to piece together what happens and work out who kills Evelyn. Only then will be free to leave Blackheath.

Right, so I have very mixed feelings about this book. I was very much looking forward to reading it; I like the whole Groundhog Day scenario, as well as the idea of seeing the same day through different eyes and perspectives. The writing itself was eloquent and often quite poetic – there were occasions when a sentence really caught my attention just by how beautifully it was phrased. But my goodness this book is confusing and I can’t help feeling the author got a little bit too clever with the idea, and tried to cram almost too much in. (I am in awe at the planning he must have made to get the timeline in order!) With every day starting over, every ‘host’ was somewhat affected by the actions of the previous host, and the times and locations of certain events became quite hard to follow. I would genuinely recommend keeping a notebook nearby and jotting down when key events happened, because it gets very convoluted, with most characters literally not being who they seem.

Despite all this, I still found myself drawn in and didn’t feel like giving up – this is partly due to the aforementioned writing style. I will say that the ending when it came was excellent, very clever and to my mind unpredictable.

I’m not sure if I would read another book by this author. Possibly, but I’ll be sure to keep that notebook handy next time!

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I’ve been a fan of Dave Gorman for a long time – his tv shows and stage shows (I’m lucky enough to have been him live) are always witty and entertaining, and his books are always a good source of amusement. In this book, he basically travels around England playing games with strangers. He plays traditional games such as Cluedo, Ping Pong, Darts and Poker, and some other games which were – to me at least – unknown, such as Khett, Kubb, Smite and erm…Rod Hull’s Emu Game (I know who Rod Hull and Emu are obviously. I did not know that there was such a game. And neither did Dave!)

Gorman is an affable and engaging narrator and while the book is not constantly hilarious, it is amusing and made me laugh out loud on a number of occasions. There is at least one episode which took both myself and Dave Gorman himself by complete surprise, and when you’ve finished the book I am sure you will know which one I mean.

Overall, a lovely read which I would definitely recommend. Also, I now would love to find a local Smite team to join!

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